Alabama's tornadoes: A time to remember

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (BP) -- Some experiences in life you really want to forget because the pain is too much to bear. That is quite understandable. All of us could cite a chapter and verse about such episodes of failure and sadness.

 
On the other hand, there are experiences, even the most anguishing and painful ones, that demand our personal reflection and remembrance. Let's think about one very close to home for all of us.

For the people of Alabama, we are facing one of those sad but memorable moments. On April 27, we mark the first anniversary of the worst weather-related tragedy in the history of our beloved state. You remember this horrific day. It was when 62 tornadoes, five of them rated EF5, came roaring through Alabama and other states with a fierce force of power unforeseen by almost all of us.

Forty-two of our 67 counties were impacted, some of them catastrophically, by this unprecedented outbreak of tornadoes. Those of us who witnessed the scenes of destruction in the early hours after the incidents were moved to tears and almost speechless as we viewed the indescribable debris and rubble. Those memories are deeply etched in our minds.

'The individuals and families of those impacted by the tornadoes remember their painful experiences as if they had just happened.' -- Rick Lance
I vividly recall being interviewed by a Birmingham television station reporter who said to me, "I do not know what to ask you. I am going to let you just look at me and at the camera and talk to the audience."

Never before has a reporter said anything resembling that comment to me. The camera light came on, and with adrenaline flowing from a body tired from travel and interacting with those severely impacted by this disaster, I began to thank Alabama Baptists and other disaster relief workers. I shared my raw emotions of what I had seen and felt during those early hours of response.

Now a painful anniversary is upon us. The individuals and families of those impacted by the tornadoes remember their painful experiences as if they had just happened. They mourn afresh the loss of lives and the damage to homes and other property. They recall the sounds of unspeakable terror that only tornadoes can make. They recall the calm aftermath of the storms, which seemed so surreal given the major destruction around them.

How are Alabama Baptists taking time to remember the first anniversary of the unprecedented outbreak of tornadoes? Many Alabama Baptist churches observed a special time of worship April 22. There is no better response, in good or bad times, than that of God's people gathering to worship Him.

Many churches also are including a special time of remembrance of all affected by the tornadoes, especially the families of the victims -- an appreciated response on this day of reflection.

Another way is through giving. As Alabama Baptists, we have chosen this day for a special offering for general disaster relief, which will help us be prepared for future events. The funds will be used for first response approaches to the catastrophic occurrences as disaster relief workers are called out following hurricanes and tornadoes in Alabama and beyond. Gifts given for disaster relief will make a huge difference in challenging times of need.

In this special season as we worship, remember and give, let us give thanks to our Lord, who sustains us through the roughest times and blesses us always so that we may bless others in His name.


Rick Lance is executive director of the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions.